FOOTBALL hooligans launched a mass fight which saw 30 rival fans clash outside a Sunderland pub after a home game last month.
Sunderland and Leeds United fans brawled outside the Wheatsheaf pub in Monkwearmouth, after the Black Cats’ 1-0 FA Cup win over the Elland Road side at the Stadium of Light, on January 4.
Leeds supporter Benjamin Haigh, described as one of the main protagonists, appeared before Sunderland magistrates this week, where he admitted threatening behaviour and criminal damage.
The court heard that he threw punches at rival fans and lashed out at a taxi parked outside the pub.
The 32-year-old, of Station Road, Huddersfield, was walking past the pub, in Roker Avenue, when a group of Sunderland fans came out and he “saw red mist”, magistrates heard.
Prosecutor Neil Fodor said Haigh was one of the “main protagonists” during the violent incident in the street.
“Police were called to what is described as a large-scale disturbance between rival football fans,” Mr Fodor said.
“There were 30 people in the street. Some were throwing punches at others and there was shouting and swearing between two groups.
“Officers stepped in and attempted to control the fans, one of them being Mr Haigh. He got various warnings to get back, and go away and move on.
“Mr Haigh would not, and police officers stepped between the respective groups. They saw Mr Haigh with the Leeds fans group.
“He appeared to be one of the main protagonists and repeatedly lunged forward and attempted to goad others to fight.
“He then punched the rear off-side window of a taxi, causing it to shatter.”
Haigh was arrested and interviewed, telling officers he had been to the Leeds-Sunderland match and had made his way to the Wheatsheaf, when a group of Sunderland fans came out and started to throw punches.
He denied having thrown any punches himself, but changed his mind when he was shown CCTV footage of the incident. He also accepted causing damage to the taxi.
Ian Palmer, defending, said: “This is Mr Haigh’s first time before a court, at the age of 32.
“He was going to get a Metro to Newcastle to get a train back to West Yorkshire and he walked past the Wheatsheaf when a group of Sunderland fans exited the pub. It was no doubt an awful scene in a public area.
“He accepts he acted highly inappropriately. This was not related to alcohol, he’d only had a couple of pints, no more.
“He was caught up in the crowd mentality. He saw red mist during the incident and lashed out at the vehicle, causing the glass to smash, and was detained by officers. He was the only one arrested as part of this.”
Mr Palmer said Haigh is currently unemployed, having worked in retail, but is hoping to start work as a window cleaner shortly.
The Bench asked the Probation Service to prepare a pre-sentence report and Haigh will be sentenced on February 25.